The Lim Kee Jin Wing

Entrance to JARO with the recently renamed wing
in the background
In 1952, Dr Beryl Wilberforce-Smith, a Chest Physician in the Johor Baru General Hospital (now called Sultanah Aminah Hospital) started to rehabilitate recovering tuberculosis patients by training them with skills in basketry, book-binding and tailoring.  This rehabilitation workshop was then a unit of the Malaysian Anti-Tuberculosis Association. 

These patients came under the care of Dato’ Dr Lim Kee Jin in 1958 when he was posted to the hospital as Consultant Physician and this started him on a life-long mission to rehabilitate special people by training and equipping them with marketable skills so that they can have a sense of dignity with financial independence.

Dato' Dr Lim Kee Jin
As they started accepting rehabilitees with other disabilities, the rehabilitation workshop changed its identity to Johor Area Rehabilitation Organisation or JARO, a registered charitable society and sheltered workshop.  Lim was elected Chairman of Jaro in 1962 and was popularly re-elected from 1962 to 2007 to the role which he held for the next 46 years.  When Lim stepped down in 2008 due to health reasons, Dato’ Jimmy Low Boon Hong took over as Chairman of the Jaro Management Committee.

Before Lim relinquished his role in 2008, he said, “We need to re-examine Jaro’s mission to rehabilitate and train people with disabilities for gainful employment and operate a sheltered workshop for those who are unable to find employment.  We need to expand and improve our existing facilities for these purposes and network with other welfare bodies not only in Johor but throughout Malaysia as well as organizations for the disabled throughout the world.”  This was quoted in a tribute to Lim by Dr Adam Liew on behalf of the Jaro Management Committee at an event on April 6 to rename the Jaro building as the Lim Kee Jin Wing.

Two auspicious dancing lions at the renaming ceremony
“He is a teacher, mentor, friend and a Giant in Medicine,” said Liew who went on to describe how Lim, the man behind the birth of Johor Specialist Hospital, the first private hospital in Johor Baru, is especially sensitive to the needs of the less privileged. 

Some 200 well-wishers joined the Jaro committee members, staff and rehabilitees in a simple ceremony to honour Lim as he unveiled the new name for the building.  This significant event was also witnessed by Lim’s wife, Datin Patricia Lim, their son, Professor Lim Seng Gee and his wife.

Dato' Lim Kee Jin [in wheelchair] unveiling the new name
by remote control while his wife, Datin Pat Lim and Chairman
of Jaro Management Committee, Dato' Jimmy Low, look on
This building has been Jaro’s permanent home since it was officially declared open in November 1968 by then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak Dato Hussain.  Lim was the driving force behind the application for State land and to obtaining a grant from the Federal Government and the services of the JKR or Public Works Department to construct a building for Jaro. 

Through the efforts of Lim and Low, the adjacent piece of land was acquired in 1981 and a new building was constructed, renovated and rented out in 2012.

Esah Mahat [Left] presenting her poem with the
help of her colleagues in Jaro
The renaming of the building was celebrated with a traditional Lion Dance by an auspicious pair of dancing lions and the recitation of a poem written in Malay by Esah Mahat which she dedicated to Lim and presented with the help of her colleagues in Jaro.  Her simple words succinctly summed up the sentiments of the Jaro rehabilitees towards Lim’s contributions that gave them dignity and a purpose in life.  The towering influence of Lim when he led the Jaro committee with compassion, dedication and enthusiasm continues to motivate committee members to carry on the good work he started and take Jaro to greater heights of achievement. 

Prof Lim Seng Gee, Dato' Lim's son,
accepted the tribute on behalf of his father
“My father is not only a renowned physician but he’s also an excellent cook, a sculptor and a gentlemen farmer,” said Lim’s son, Professor Lim Seng Gee, as he shared some insights about Lim after he accepted the tribute on behalf of his father. 

He acknowledged that the social entrepreneurship his father started in Jaro is an essential ideal for a developed nation and is pleased that rehabilitees have their dignity and self-esteem restored as they are able to make a healthy living.  He also announced the donation of RM10,000 from the Lim family towards the fund for workers welfare and rehabilitation.

The Jaro brand has established itself through beautiful, quality and useful products made by special people that are a pride to own and a joy to present to others.  Many homes still use Jaro quality products like rattan baskets and furniture while charming Jaro smocked dresses for toddlers are treasured heirlooms that are being handed down in families for generations. 

The poem in Malay by Esah Mahat
Jaro also continues to receive book-binding orders from a regular clientele of satisfied customers and has long-term contracts with the law fraternity in Johor Baru, Malaysian and Singaporean universities, printing companies, and libraries.

While Jaro receives annual Government grants and public donations and is self-supporting by marketing its products and reinvesting the funds into its daily operations, they often run at a deficit.  As such Jaro recently launched its “Adopt a Person With Disability” (PWD) Programme where individuals and corporations can sponsor or adopt a PWD from RM5,000 annually or contribute towards the charity fund to pay salaries and other operating costs.  Tax deductible donations can be made to the Jaro Account at HSBC and Jaro event updates can be found on:\JAROJB.

Jaro is located along Jalan Sungai Chat, between Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar (English College) and the Mawar Complex, with retail outlets in City Square and Holiday Plaza. Open on weekdays from 8.30am to 5.30pm, closed on weekends and Public Holidays.  Tel: 607 – 2245632. 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 18 April 2013

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